Swish!: The Slam-Dunking, Alley-Ooping, High-Flying Harlem Globetrotters

Little, Brown. Nov. 2020. 40p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780316481670.
PreS-Gr 4–With their “fancy footwork, fast passes, and one-handed dunk shots,” the Harlem Globetrotters were known for putting on an entertaining show. Their history, however, shows how the Globetrotters played a significant role in the development of professional basketball. The original founders were a group of African American high school basketball players from the South Side of Chicago. The team played their first game in 1927. They traveled around the country playing against hometown or other touring teams, both Black and white. The Great Depression made it hard for the team to earn money until they added ball-handling tricks and theatrical moves to their game. They were accomplished players, but these special elements attracted paying customers. Although they presented a lighthearted presence on the court, the team encountered discrimination in many of the towns they visited and were barred from local hotels and restaurants designated “whites only.” When new professional leagues began forming in the late 1940s, Black players initially were not recruited, even as the Globetrotters were a hit at Madison Square Garden. In 1950, Harlem Globetrotter Nathaniel “Sweetwater” Clifton was one of the first African American men signed to the NBA. The Globetrotters began to live up to their name, playing exhibition games in many countries and across the United States. Digital illustrations and archival photographs capture the team’s energy and sense of fun. The players’ quick movements and the constant ball action are expertly represented by Tate’s dynamic cartoon-style spreads.
VERDICT This well-researched, accessible picture book makes this story bounce off the page.

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